2 more Mission Hill teachers placed on leave

Cassellius orders second investigation into bullying

BOSTON PUBLIC School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has placed two more teachers from the Mission Hill K-8 Pilot School in Jamaica Plain on paid administrative leave and launched a second investigation into bullying at the school.

In an October 8 email to parents of students at the school, Cassellius said she placed the two teachers on leave, bringing the total to four, and ordered a second investigation of bullying by the Boston law firm Hinckley Allen.

The first bullying investigation examined violent acts perpetuated against a gender nonconforming student from 2014 to 2019, which included the pupil being pinned up against a bathroom wall and choked, stabbed in the face with a pencil, struck on the head, punched in the nose, body checked, kicked, taunted, hair pulled, and verbally abused.  One student even threatened to bring a gun to school and kill the gender nonconforming student.

In addition to the bullying issues, the city of Boston reached a $650,000 settlement in August with five sets of parents who alleged that their daughters were the victim of sexual misbehavior by a fellow student at the Mission Hill School.

Ayla Gavins was the principal of the Mission Hill School when the bullying that was the focus of the initial investigation and the sexual misbehavior took place. She reportedly did not alert officials with the school system of any problems at the school. Gavins resigned in 2019, but she was rehired as a part-time teacher at the school for the 2020-2021 school year by co-leaders Geralyn McLaughlin and Jenerra Williams.

McLaughlin and Williams were placed on paid administrative leave in August and Cassellius said two more teachers — who school officials identified as Nakia Keizer and Cleata Brown — were placed on paid administrative leave this month.

Cassellius said in her email that she had received a number of new bullying complaints from parents, who alleged that they “consistently reported the persistent bullying to educators and school leaders and that those complaints were unaddressed.”

Cassellius told parents in her email that specialists are being assigned to the school and additional training is being provided to personnel at the Mission Hill School in bullying prevention and intervention. The school educates about 250 students.

“I understand these circumstances are difficult, but I and the team at BPS continue to pursue the best interests of students, staff, and overall community,” Cassellius said in her email.